What is the fate of our beaches - a truly transitional habitat? How do
tides, waves and ocean currents influence that shape of our beaches?
Who has the right to change the shape of our beaches? Scientists?
Politicians? Landowners? How will these changes influence the life on
the beach and the seafood many people love to eat? This PBAT course
will investigate sand, surf, and sea life, while bringing to light the
debate about beach restoration.

The topics for the course are;
• UNIT 1: What is a beach, how is it formed, and what influences it?
• Create a visual diagram illustrating a process of nature.
• UNIT 2: What lives at the beach and how do they survive there?
• Create an advertisement program for your beach area.
• UNIT 3: What is beach restoration and why is it funded?
• Investigate beach restoration projects in the northeastern U.S.

Final Product: PBAT paper and presentation.

Significant Assignments: 

Concept maps are used to interpret information from four different science texts. Concept maps are widely used in research science to effectively illustrate and communicate scientific processes, ideas, and scientific models. Students we learn how to develop a successful concept map based on one of the natural influences that shape shorelines. The concept map practice will aid students in understanding the significance of the topic and its application in designing a successful lab investigation.

The end product of the first unit is a wall-sized mural composed of the 9 different group concept maps, which are, in turn, designed by 3 different students. Linking text between topics will encourage analysis of the information from the concept maps of others. A major component of this unit is peer evaluation and critique, where we often refer back to each others work as we strive to design more effective means of communicating the topic.

The second unit will focus on the specific characteristics of geographically isolated beach communities. Students will take on the task of reporting on the types of sand, slopes, structures, and life that occupy that land boundary.


Rock and mineral characteristics and composition are often used to characterize an abiotic environment. By examining types of minerals and the presence of those minerals in various types of rocks, we can better make predictions about the influence of that rock type on beach erosion. Rocks like sand stone and granite will result in different beach composition than rocks likes basalt and pumice.

In this first unit, it is important to evaluate skills of objective observation, such as measurement of length, volume, mass, and density, while also creating a forum for more subjective observations such as color, luster, and texture. Students will make predictions of the effect these characteristics will have on sand density, sand particle size, and ultimately sand displacement in water currents. Students will also predict the effect that specific beach structures will have on wave patterns and erosion by physically creating models of these structures on a beach and watching the effect of the waves on the shape of the structure.

The second unit will focus on the biotic characteristics of the beaches. Comparisons will be made between different beach structures, sand compositions and the links to the flora and fauna related to those habitats. Can we see distinct patterns between organisms and the geologic features at each habitat? Which of the geological characteristics have a more obvious influence on the life present?

Sample PBATs: 
How does particle size influence the erosion of beach sand?
Does sand density influence the erosion of beaches?
How does sand movement affect the interstitial beach community?
What are the alternatives to beach replenishment?
How is salinity influenced by rock composition?